12 tips for staying safe at open houses12 tips for staying safe at open housesHayley RiederRieder
2019-09-04T05:00:00ZCenter News

Showing homes and holding open houses are essential duties for many real estate professionals. While these events generally run smoothly, there is still an element of danger when inviting strangers into a client's home.

September is National Realtor Safety Month, so now is a great time to review your workplace safety practices. Although you should always be cautious while holding an open house or showing, we've compiled a dozen tips from the National Association of Realtors to take into consideration this month.

12 tips for staying safe at open houses

  1. ​Have the seller remove all valuables​ from the home before the showing. An open house provides potent​​ial burglars a way to map out a home and identify valuables to target. Belongings like video game consoles, jewelry, and important documents should be removed from the property and kept somewhere safe.

  2. Bring a colleague or friend to the open house. It is always good practice to have another set of eyes and ears to alert you to potential threats.

  3. Check in with someone even if you are not alone at the open house. Notify someone off-property, like a colleague, friend, or relative, that you will be calling them every hour, on the hour. If you don't call, they are to call you. You should also give them the address and turn on location sharing if possible.

  4. Create an escape plan. When you first enter a house, check all rooms to determine several escape routes. Unlock deadbolts and open a couple of windows to facilitate a faster escape. If the backyard is fenced, be sure you can escape from there as well.

  5. Check your cell signal before the open house. Make sure your phone is charged and has an adequate signal. Program emergency numbers on speed dial.

  6. Walk behind the prospect. Do not lead the client around the home; instead, direct them around the house from behind. The prospect should always be in your “10 and 2" range of vision.

  7. Avoid small rooms. Stay close to the exits in attics, basements, and other small rooms. Do not let yourself be cornered.

  8. Have a sign-in procedure to identify prospects. Have all open house visitors sign in with their full name, address, phone number, email, and vehicle information. When scheduling a one-on-one showing, be sure to photograph the prospect's identification card and send the picture to someone in your office.

  9. Keep your keys and phone on your person. Your handbag should be locked in the trunk of your vehicle.

  10. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity. If anything is out of the ordinary—like a man wearing a long coat on a hot day, or someone asking about when the sellers are coming home—do not be afraid to cut the showing short. However, the best course of action is to stay calm and not show fear. Confidence is key, and always keep your head up. For added protection, ask neighbors to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

  11. Make sure everyone is out of the home before locking up. Do not assume the home is empty after the open house. Check every room to make sure no one has stayed in the home. Make sure all windows and doors are locked.

  12. Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, it very well may be. You should remain alert and aware. If you need to cut the open house short or alert the authorities, do not be afraid to do so. Remain professional, and get out quickly if you need to. 

Yesterday's interest rate cut could have psychological impact on homebuyersYesterday's interest rate cut could have psychological impact on homebuyersBryan PopePope

​​​Yesterday, the Federal Reserve announced that it had cut its key interest rate by a quarter-point to a range of 2 to 2.25 percent. This marked the first time the central bank had reduced its benchmark rate since December 2008.

I asked Real Estate Center Chief Economist Dr. Jim Gaines what impact this could have on the housing market. He said it will more than likely have little immediate influence.

"The long-term residential fixed interest rate is not directly tied to the Fed Funds Rate," Gaines said, "but is influenced more by the ten-year Treasury Bond rate, which in turn is more influenced by inflationary expectations.

"Core personal consumption expenditure (PCE) inflation is currently running well below 2 percent, and the financial markets appear to not expect any significant inflation in the near term."

If anything, Gaines said, the major impact of the Fed’s cut could be psychological.

"Buyers and sellers may now expect even lower rates and act accordingly," he said. "Indeed, current mortgage rates have been declining, so purchasing power of buyers is greater. There's also the demand to refinance an older, higher-interest-rate loan."

Economic expansion sets recordEconomic expansion sets recordLuis TorresTorres


This month marks the longest expansion in U.S. economic history. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the expansion began in June 2009. Numbers released for July 2019 will show a record 121 months of continuous growth.

The expansion featured a downward trend in the unemployment rate that reached levels not seen since the 1960s. At the same time, an average 169,000 jobs were created monthly. The expansion was characterized by slow productivity and wage growth, and by low inflation and low interest rates. Recently, some wage growth improvements have been observed, including improvement for lower-income households.

Going forward, the economy should slow, the job market remain tight, and worker earnings rise steadily. Even with the expansion milestone, recession fears continue, fueled by growing risks from corporate debt and the leveraging of the nonbank system. Don't forget that long-run U.S. public debt is on an unsustainable path, and policy adjustments are needed to get public debt under control.

Past recessions have been triggered by financial imbalances, such as housing bubbles caused by excessive lending. Firms and markets are globally interconnected. Financial markets are dependent on low interest rates. With uncertainty on the rise over government policies, such as trade, a vehicle that is not currently apparent could bring expansion to an end. 

The mystery of the murdered economic expansionThe mystery of the murdered economic expansionLuis TorresTorres

​Former Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen: "I don’t think economic expansions die of old age."

Yellen’s predecessor, Ben Bernanke, in response: "I like to say they get murdered."

The "murderers" in the past have been financial imbalances like over-leveraging or the Federal Reserve raising rates too fast. Now, as the U.S. economy achieves the longest expansion recorded in the nation’s history, recession fears are rising, and we’re once again looking for the culprit.

One likely suspect: the growing debt from the nonfinancial sector, such as corporate debt. Outstanding debt by nonfinancial companies, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is at a historical high.

In the past, interest rates that were too low for too long could contribute to financial imbalances, as they could encourage excessive leveraging. The U.S. economy is currently in a state of slow productivity growth with persistently low inflation leading to low interest rates. Even with these conditions, it is unclear whether nonfinancial businesses are taking more risk than they should.

Another important unknown is what happens if credit conditions change because investors’ perceptions of risk or their willingness to take on risk changes? This could cause a decrease in the supply of loanable funds, leading to a credit crunch.

Also, even though inflation pressures are currently low, what happens if inflation comes back, causing a sharp rise in interest rates?

These are difficult questions to answer, but one thing is clear: nonfinancial business sector debt is at a historical high, and we need to keep it under surveillance.

​​blog figure one

Blog figure two

Buying a home in a flood-prone area? Do some homework firstBuying a home in a flood-prone area? Do some homework firstLuis TorresTorres

Hurricane Harvey damage

Texas coastal cities have been hit by numerous flood events over the past 30 years, resulting in billions of dollars in damage. ​​Recently, a reporter with Bankrate.com asked for advice for homebuyers looking to buy in flood-prone areas. The bottom line: a little research in advance can save buyers a lot of distress in the long run.​

Bankrate: How do you determine what hurricane/flood zone a home you're considering purchasing is located in?

You can search homes by address through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) online flood map service center​. Be careful, though, because flood maps change over time. An area may currently have a low risk of flooding, but that could change. Also, keep in mind that, according to FEMA, about one quarter of all flood insurance claims come from low- or moderate-risk areas.

Just because a home has not flooded previously doesn’t mean it won’t flood tomorrow. Consider whether you are downstream from a dam or reservoir. Following Hurricane Harvey, many Houston homes were damaged by the release of water, not by the actual hurricane.

How do you research a home you might want to buy that's in a hurricane zone?

You can use FEMA’s map service to search for the address. Also, call your county and look at other sources, such as local universities, for research on flooding.

How do you make sure that your home is protected if you do opt to buy in a hurricane or flood zone?

A buyer must become knowledgeable, not just informed. Read the flood insurance policy carefully. Note the type of protection and the covered causes of flooding. Flood insurance does not cover everything. Damage caused by moisture, mildew, or mold is generally not covered. Damage to currency, precious metals, valuables such as stock certificates and property and belongings outside the home will come out of your pocket, too. Temporary housing is generally not covered.

What are the most important factors to consider when you're considering a home in a hurricane zone?

The degree of flooding risk is an important factor. The year the home was built is important because flood maps change. A home that was originally “safe” can find itself in a high-risk area and not meet the necessary standards for the new flood zone. Has the home flooded in the past? Are you near a reservoir or dam? What type of damage has the home sustained? What is the cost of insurance? What is the insurance going to protect you against? What has happened to home prices in the region? Have they been increasing or decreasing?

What are the financial implications of buying a home in a hurricane zone?

Hurricane-prone areas result in higher insurance payments and lower home-price growth. In other words, you can expect lower return on a home purchase. Insurance may not cover everything, and there may be difficulty when trying to sell the house later.

You can read Bankrate's ​article online​.​

In search of Tierra Grande on a Saturday afternoonIn search of Tierra Grande on a Saturday afternoonBryan PopePope
2019-05-02T05:00:00ZCenter News
​​​​​​​​​​​Tierra Grande street sign

​"Here's an idea." Those three words fill me with two parts excitement and one part trepidation. My boss, Senior Editor David Jones, says this. A lot. He's an idea guy.

David recently Googled "Tierra Grande" and discovered what appeared to be a C​ensus-designated place in Nueces County outside of Corpus Christi bearing that name. Now, a little context for the uninitiated: Tierra Grande is the name of the Real Estate Center's 40+-year-old quarterly magazine​​. You can read it here​. More​ context: I grew up in a small farming town near Corpus and occasionally visit my folks there.

"Here's an idea," David said. "You should go find Tierra Grande next time you're down that way." As luck would have it, I had scheduled a visit to see my parents within the next couple of weeks.

Two Saturdays later, armed with my wife's Canon and a sad little excuse for a roadmap, and accompanied by my trusty guides (mom and dad weren't about to miss out on such a potentially fun adventure), I sallied forth to the outskirts of Corpus Christi in search of our El Dorado.

We each had our assigned roles. Mine was to drive; my mom's, to navigate. From the back seat, my dad made it his job to let us know whether the crops we passed were grain, cotton, or corn. Also his job: to draw my attention to the many potholes, which I invariably hit (my fault for overstepping my role trying to help my mom make heads or tails of the map). On a side note, my parents' car has terrific shock absorption.​

Our efforts were rewarded, but in ways we'd not expected. My mom was hoping to find a small subdivision with a lovely entrance landscaped with large rocks, flowers, perhaps a lovely water feature, and absolutely the name "Tierra Grande." My dad thought there might be a water tower with Tierra Grande painted in tall letters. I didn't expect us to find much of anything.

But we did.

Turns out there was a water tower, but it didn't have a name on it in letters big or small. There was, however, an ordinary green street sign that said Tierra Grande, an unexpected find after nothing but similar green signs pointing to CR 36, 34, 30, etc. The street sign marked a small community of homes. No post office or convenience store. No park or community center. Just private residences clustered together in a small forest of cedar elms surrounded by miles and miles of crops and wind turbines.

Wikipedia says​ Tierra Grande had a population of 403 as of 2010, roughly 40 more than in 2000. The population is practically booming! We didn't get the feeling there were as many residents there as Wikipedia claimed, but those we saw waved and smiled with only mild suspicion (me taking a picture of the street sign at the intersection while my parents watched for traffic didn't help matters much). We encountered a mailman. Also a guy on a riding lawnmower. Friendly as both of them seemed, we didn't press our luck. Signs on numerous barbed-wire fences warned us trespassers would be shot.

Thank heavens my dad didn't take my mom seriously when she joked about him stealing the street sign for me to bring back to the office.

Another street sign indicated there might be children at play. We saw none, but of course it was 2:30 in the afternoon in South Texas in what already felt like summer.

So I snapped a few pics and hopped back in the car to enjoy the ride home, catching up with mom and dad on their life and the latest news from my grandmother's nursing home. My dad commented on whether he thought this year's cotton crop would be good. Considered stopping at Whataburger for vanilla malts, but didn't.

What's that adage abou​t life sometimes being about the journey? I suppose that's true even when you're just puttering along farm roads outside Corpus Christi.​ Best to watch for potholes and enjoy the company. Next time, though, I'll stop for the vanilla malt.

Children at play street sign
Advice for young real estate agentsAdvice for young real estate agentsGerald KlassenKlassen

​​​​​​​In an April 24, 2019, article titled "2019's Best Places to Be a Real Estate Agent,"​ WalletHub included some comments of mine in its "Ask the Experts" section. Here's what I said.

Q. Should real estate agents feel threatened by new apps and other online tools offering services to potential homebuyers?​​

A. Online tools will automate the simplest services provided to homebuyers. Realtors who rely on providing simple services to clients will feel the biggest impact. I liken the situation to the days of the full-service stock brokerage charging a $100 fee to execute stock trades. The internet made personal trading possible and soon discount brokers emerged charging $8 or less per trade. The brokerages that didn't adapt to the new technology disappeared. The brokerages that embraced the technology and found new fee-based services survived and thrived. The big difference is that real estate transactions are much more complex than stock trades so this works in the favor of Realtors. How many homebuyers will have the confidence to execute a home purchase on their own? The rest will require some assistance so there will always be a need for real estate agents. It will be interesting to see what technologies Realtors adopt to provide a higher level of service than they do today.​

​Q. How can real estate agents protect themselves from the "boom-bust" cycle of the housing market?

A. Realtors can protect their business from boom-bust cycles by learning new skills that generate revenue in the “bust" times. During busts there is always a need for appraisal and litigation support for real estate-related lawsuits. Another defensive strategy is to establish a good reputation for top notch service and high integrity. People still need to buy and sell homes during a bust period. Realtors with the best reputation will always be in demand for transactions even in the bad times.​

Q. What tips do you have for a young real estate agent? What does he or she need to do to get ahead in the current market?

A. To get ahead in the current marketplace, young Realtors should do the same thing as experienced successful Realtors. Be dedicated to personal education. Learn as much about different property types, marketing and transaction types as possible. Most importantly, act with the highest level of integrity. A reputation for honesty and fair dealing will open doors to new real estate opportunities. Homebuyers will always want to do business with a Realtor having good integrity.​

Q. In evaluating the best cities for real estate agents, what are the top five indicators?

A. Here are the four questions I think a Realtor should ask when evaluating the best city to conduct business:

  • Would I like living in this city? Will I be able to do the things that I enjoy most in life? If you aren't happy with the city you live in it will negatively impact your business.

  • Are job opportunities expanding in this city? If jobs are growing then more people will eventually move to the city. That creates more opportunities to succeed in real estate.

  • Is the population growing in this city? This is closely related to job growth. More people means more need for housing.

  • Does this city have an abundance of the property type I like marketing? If you don't enjoy what you are selling then it will negatively impact your business.​

Q. How likely is it that the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates again in the coming months? How would that affect real estate agents?

A. I think there is a low probability that the Fed will hike the policy rate in the coming months. Slowing global economic growth will likely contribute to slower growth in the US. There are no significant inflationary pressures that would call for a rate hike. The recent decline in long term Treasury yields tells us that bond investors are concerned about future growth prospects. The falling Treasury yields are improving the prospects for Realtors because they are helping to bring down mortgage rates. In the current state of the economy there doesn't seem to be a catalyst that would motivate the Fed to increase the policy rate.​

Getting started in real estate investmentGetting started in real estate investmentGerald KlassenKlassen

​​​​​​It was a short note. 

“Howdy! I am a student at Texas A&M and I'm wanting to start a small passive investment into real estate. I am also a beginner and know very little about real estate but I'm eager to learn. Can you guys help me out?" 

This was my reply. 

Here are a few things for you to think about as you pursue real estate investment. 

  1. What type of property interests you the most? Look at the buildings around you and figure out what looks interesting to you. Land and buildings require a great deal of care to keep them generating income, so you better like what you are managing. 
  1. Get a job working for someone managing the type of real estate that interests you most. You need to learn how the asset works and how to take care of it. I cannot emphasize this enough. It will save you from making many mistakes. 
  1. Managing real estate isn't a “passive" job. You need to be ready 24/7 to take care of it and serve the tenants who are paying you to be in your space. 
  1. Plan to enroll in the Master of Real Estate Program at Texas A&M. Start talking with staff running the program so you can get the prerequisites for the program. Seats are limited so make sure you have good grades and some real estate work experience. https://mays.tamu.edu/master-of-real-estate/ 
  1. Get an internship working for a firm managing the type of real estate that interests you most. The experience will help you a lot when you are in the MRE program. It will significantly increase your odds of getting a great internship in the program. 
  1. Go to real estate conferences to network and learn what interests you. Look into different industry organizations, such as: 
  1. Always conduct yourself with the highest ethical standards, and do your very best to serve people. It will open doors to great real estate opportunities. 

Have a suggestion for a beginning investor? Drop us a note at info@recenter.tamu.edu


 Search Blog Posts